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One group would like to see if Utah voters want to keep the new flag

Dec 4, 2023, 10:24 AM

Sen. Daniel McCay and new Utah flag...

Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, sponsor of SB31, State Flag Amendments, poses for a photo with the new Utah state flag at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been almost nine months since the Utah Legislature adopted the new state flag, with the simplified gold beehive flanked by a red, white and blue backdrop. Since the narrow passing of Senate Bill 31 in March of this year, many Utahns have embraced the new flag. Opponents, however, have been working overtime to reverse this change.

Gathering signatures to overturn the bill became a full-time job for Tracie Halvorsen, Chad Saunders and Teri Bishop, the three initiative sponsors for Restore Utah’s Flag.

The process of reversing a bill passed is no easy task. The group has less than six months to gather 134,298 signatures of registered voters. Each Senate district has varying requirements for the number of signatures needed.

The group has to gather each signature in person, and then get them verified and counted by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

For Halvorsen, Saunders and Bishop, restoring the flag is also about restoring the voice of the voters.

“Representative form of government can become fraught with listening to special interest groups and lobbyists… and I feel that is how this happened,” said Halvorsen. “No one asked for a flag change, no one was upset about our flag, and it should at least be put to a vote.”

The proposed bill says that it’s up to voters to decide on all future modifications and expenditures of the state flag.

“A lot of people are frustrated and willing to sign because… they are just glad they are being talked to,” said Saunders. “They are glad people are hearing them, and that’s what we are hoping we get from our government.”

Symbolism in the Utah flag, new and old

The symbolism in the historical Utah flag is very important to Halvorsen.

“The arrows mean we are prepared to stand up for our liberties and fight for our freedoms,” Halvorsen said. “The shield means protection. The sego lilies, that was the Native Americans telling the settlers that they could eat those when the crops went bad. The eagle means power, and then it has all our historical dates, and to erase something like that is a big deal to me.”

The feeling of the group is that there is a broader movement to erase history across the country, with changing state flags as one step to reach that end.

“We want our kids to know how important the history is of our state… and we can’t just sit down and let this cancel culture, like mob mentality, come in and change our values and our history,” said Stephanie Grant, another volunteer.

The new Utah flag is not without its symbolism, however. According to the official webpage for the flag, the blue represents the open skies and background of the historical flag.

Furthermore, the color represents the core principles Utahns hold. These principles include faith, knowledge, freedom, optimism and tradition.

The creators of the flag hoped that each color had its own visual and symbolic representation.

Also, the flag is meant to preserve Utah’s history. The beehive symbolizes the state’s history and slogan, “Industry.”

The flag “highlights visual symbols designed to serve as a rallying emblem of unity throughout the state,” according to the website. That said, Grant argued that flying both flags causes more division.

“Instead of having one that represents all of us, we have two to fly different ideas,” said Grant. “We just want to have one represent us as a whole.”

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One group would like to see if Utah voters want to keep the new flag